A Giant Fish and Tiny Castle: Fragments of Fairytales Renee Magritte, Castle of the Pyrenees Source: http://www.amorosart.com/
Water rushes in through my nose, searing and stinging its sides. I struggle and push outwards with my body but feel its full force push me sideways. My foot sloshes lightly through the sand and I pull myself together and push up towards my escape. I break through the surface and can taste the salt in my mouth as I gasp for air. My eyes sting as I examine the blurry haze around me, I can just make out the growing white-‐lipped creature moving swiftly towards me. I take a painful breath and brace myself helplessly. The arches reach away from me, peaking in the centre of the cathedral-‐style roof, the brown polished wood gleaming around me as I follow its intricate patterns towards the dark fireplace. Despite it being still and lifeless I can feel its warmth resonating still, the warmth that radiated from this house, my home. I stretch my body out on the cream suede, its moulded cushions shaping around my familiar contours and creating a nest in which my body fits comfortably. Outside the yard stretches away from me and towards the paddock fence, the land brown and withered from the sun’s heat. It hits me and I feel the strength in my body immediately taken from me. I struggle for a moment before conceding that there is little point and allow the waves to beat me mercilessly. I feel the force of another wave crashing on top of me, spinning me around until the last of my orientation has slipped away. I feel the panic of claustrophobia building in my chest and swallow the thickly-‐laden salt water which clogs my throat and destroys the last of my air supply. I break the surface and gasp, panicked. The water vibrates all around me, as I see it for the first time, the giant rock island resting commandingly in the water, a tiny castle carved into its distant shape. A dark figure slithers through the water in front of me as if challenging me to turn back but I push forward towards this fairytale shape. My fingers scratch on each other as I stretch out my fists, rough like the textures of the bricks supporting our home. The air smells burnt, reminding me of the harshness of this climate and the dangers that go with living in the bush. As I descend down the rocky slope our old cubby house emerges out of the bush to the left. It rests half broken and full of termites as moments flash by in my memory of my brother and me playing atop our fortress. I touch the smooth bark of the old gum tree supporting its frame and feel the etchings left in its skin by our games, a memory engraved nearly forever.
As I break the surface I feel the determination build in my limbs to escape this punishment, the bullying of the sea which is unlikely to end. I look ahead to the castle so peacefully waiting for my arrival and my body is drawn towards it helplessly. A huge green and black scaled fish leaps out of the water to my side, snapping his jaws at me as I watch in fright. Sucking air in through my mouth I feel the harsh dry of my worn throat but force the air down into my lungs. With all the strength I can manage I kick my legs out behind me and swim towards my challenger, bringing the white-‐lipped monster closer to me as I pull myself together. The water turns purple-‐black and cold as my predatory prepares to pounce, his fangs exposed. Her eyes are fire as her cold tone cuts through me, “you think you’re such a good person, well you’re not.” I feel the bitterness of her words thicken the air. Fire incinerates my brain into a furious hole; empty of any rational thought it seers and stings my insides. I feel the anger welling up within my muscles, already distorting and flexing. I feel it building in my chest now, shaking in tremors that threaten to burst me open from the inside. Her face remains smug and distant and it throws petrol on the already building flame. My mouth releases an incomprehensible scream and my brain will not work as my physical instincts begin to take control. She calls herself a mother? The words trail through my mind slowly and heavily. I recall the conversation, searching for the trigger for such cruelty but the broken words of my own drift through my mind, do you know how much it has hurt me that you are practically kicking me out of my home? Her face is a statue, no hint of sadness or remorse in its angular features. My heart feels like a dead weight stuck deep inside of me as I wonder if the pain will ever end, if these broken parts of myself will ever feel whole again. As I place my arms out in front of me and push myself forward and deep into the heart of my predator as I feel it crashing over me. The great monster grabs me, a sharp claw upon my leg and drags me backwards. I kick my attacker off and push forward to the surface, preparing myself for the next onslaught. I feel something slippery tickle my foot and I wonder what is following me. I have no time to think about it as I push forward determination filling my chest with air as desperation begins to lick at my sides, or is it the tongue of a friend or foe? As the grass tickles the side of my face and I close my eyes my favourite place spreads out in front of me. The rough and textured ground stretches out beneath us and towards a distant sun. He beats his friendly face upon us, warming my skin as I lean forward and push on, my hair curling around my painted face. I feel Keepa’s stride lengthen beneath me, changing from the four beats of his gentle canter to the three beats of his long galloping stride. Ahead is a large
rock formation that rises up towards the sky before dropping off to the level ground and we line it up eagerly. We press on, Keepa’s strong legs always fierce and stable beneath us. My bare legs hold tight against the fur of his sides, his flanks defined in muscle as he retracts then leaps from the rocky edge. For a moment I feel the sensation of flying, my hands clutched in his mane, before he lands safely with a gentle thud on the hardened ground. I lie into Keepa’s neck, my legs relaxed at his sides as we move slowly now across the barren landscape, a sense of harmony and belonging bringing us together in this moment with my closest and most trustworthy friend. Far in the distance I hear the call of my tribe, echoing through the open passage and together we push on. My mind continues to drift beyond its physical barriers and towards this place in which I am so much at ease. As I pull my body high out of the churning water I feel the settled calm of the open ocean and watch the waves roll back towards the sandy beach, warm and still in the distance. The beach looks so far away now that I wonder if I can make it back. I rest for a moment, lying on my back as I allow the ocean to move with me, drifting me so slightly on its warm surface as it gently laps at my face, the sun warming my nose. The water carries me towards the stone castle and I finally feel at ease, despite the shadow of the giant fish circling beneath me. I drift further away from the shore and the sadness and pain it radiates, while the certainty of my pursuit suddenly shifts from my body as it goes cold and the world spins. The stillness of the moment allows me to feel calm and centred. Michael’s bare chest is warm against my body, my rosy cheek resting against the steady beat of his heart. His breathing is deep and easy as he sleeps and I close my eyes, willing this moment to remain forever, to forget my physical necessities that will eventually interrupt. I wait for sleep and dreams and wonder to surround me in this moment of content. My mind keeps me awake, refusing to cooperate as it trawls through the last few days. I feel the uncertainty and confusion that comes with imperfection in a world in which losing seems unavoidable. I squirm uneasily as I crave the simplicity of this moment to fill me up, to be home to me at a time when physical spaces are not enough. The ocean continues to take me, drifting slowly towards the gradually setting sun and the castle on the horizon. The green fish circles threateningly. Although the feeling of the warm water massaging my limbs in its gentle lapping motion is pleasant, the presence of my follower unsettles me and causes my body to tense. I feel myself sink a little as I jerk uneasily at this thought. I splutter and sit up, kicking my legs beneath me as I clear the salt from my sore
throat. The world spins in flashes. My eyes water as I look back to the hazy shore, so far away. I look towards the giant rock island as it seems to grow higher out of the ocean and I feel its natural pull urge me forward. I feel the burning of my tired limbs spread through my body and I know I must act quickly as the situation grows worse and the future and my predator start to loom. I place my hands along his strong cheekbones and he burries his head into my chest, this large powerful creature yielding in the hands of his friend. I brush my hand along the soft fur and down to the silky skin of Leon’s muzzle, prickled with long hairs. I stroke the softest skin of all, that just above his nostrils and he burries his head deeper into my chest in a moment of serenity. I feel my childish rant building up inside of me, the part that hates the world for all its cruelty and pain and wishes will power alone was enough. I will the last few weeks to disappear and the irreversible news it has brought, the decision which I continue to avoid but which I know I cannot outrun, which he cannot outrun. His ears drift back into a lazy notion as his eyes close against my chest and I know this is my most loyal friend. Years he has been with me and he is always there, always waiting and happy to see my face. Unlike my humans friends horses don’t change, they don’t find better things to do or cooler people to be around, they live a simple and content life, one which I can only glimpse in moments like these, looking into the serene brown and black pools of his eyes. I feel the water shift as I swim gradually nearer to the growing grey island. The ocean is warmer as I feel the gentle touch of a hand pulling forward my tired and weary form. Her hair is short and blonde, much like my mother’s, but she moves too swiftly against the heavy water. I can no longer see the giant green fish and am happy at this thought. As we grow near the island rock begins to grow, rising higher and higher out of the water. I feel as if I am drifting painlessly as the water parts in welcome for us. The giant rock island now resembles an oversized boulder as the water seems to drop away from its base and into the air. It is difficult to keep up as I seem to switch between floating and drowning and it feels reminiscent of viewing the still shots of a camera. We stack the boxes into the waiting truck as the magic of my home begins to be lost. Bare of its possessions the house is about to be reclaimed and my memories, my childhood self is already starting to slip away. Without the objects to which it is tied how can I trust my memory to hold onto these moments, to my identity as it has developed up until now. As we move away from this most comfortable place we must each find a new place where we belong, a new place to
call home. I prepare to drive back to my house as my parents begin their journey towards their own while the feeling of loss is unmistakable. Darkness surrounds me as the water feels cold and icy. The sun’s light just peeks around the edge of the giant boulder as it now hovers so many metres above me, still rising, so that I can no longer see its tiny castle. The faceless woman is gone and I am now alone except for the green fanged fish which now circles below. I look back towards the shore, barely visible in the distance as my tired body no longer fights with the ocean which now rocks me thoughtlessly. I feel as if I am falling, pulled downwards into unconsciousness, into the darkness, weightlessness in my stomach. My body jerks awake. Sitting alone under the cool tree I look around with blurry eyes. I look down at my page the lines smudged from the tears that again begin to spill. I flick through the pages of happy and painful memories and my castle and monster-‐filled dreams but my reality confronts me like that white-‐lipped monster as I try to hold back my sad-‐filled rage. Recalling the now stuck together pages I begin to write, my handwriting a messy scrawl. Our house sits empty as the bushland shivers sadly in the wind. My mother whimpers as Michael holds tight my cold hand. The wind whips my dark hair from my painted face, as Keepa drops his head in this weighted and final embrace. The vet takes Leon’s lead and his face is drawn away from mine as my body breaks at the thought that this is the end. I’ve made the decision which really had no alternatives at all, my best friend must die and a murderer I must be. In this moment of pain my decision is made, I will not ride again. I want nothing more than to run away, to a distant castle where I cannot be found but nightmares lurk in this distant place and an escape cannot be found. My home has been lost and now I have lost the only place where I belong, joined in a sprint against the wind with my closest and most trustworthy friend. I sob uncontrollably, my body collapsing into the harsh bark of the tree.
It is easy to dream while the lights shine bright but it is in the darkness of the night and the depth of the ocean that we may find everything within ourselves and the world with which we must fight.